Greg Seminara, Export Solutions

Many of the most successful business deals are clinched long after 900 pm. Barriers come down once your buyer or distributor escapes the handcuffs of an office environment. High impact schedules filled with meetings, emails, and deadlines leave us too little time to cultivate relationships. Technology, travel , and industry globalization have created seismic shifts in our business practices. One fundamental that hasn’t changed is that relationships count and customers prefer do business with people they like. Export Solutions shares a  few ideas to build relationships to build your business with key buyers and distributors.

Factory Tour
A well executed visit to your production facility represents a perfect opportunity to demonstrate your category leadership and commitment to quality. Couple the factory tour with a meeting with your Research and Development team to impress the buyer( or distributor ) with your plans for the future. Finish the day with a dinner with your company president or other senior executive from your team. This will provide an excellent opportunity for you to serve as a “host” and create lasting impressions of your brand beyond numbers on a price list.

Share a Business Book
An inexpensive way to enhance your connectivity is to mail your buyers and distributors a recent business book. Include a short personal note saying ” I recently read this book and thought that you might enjoy it”. Another  idea is to provide a gift of a “coffee table style” book of photos from your city. Inscribe the book with a personal note and even an invitation such as ” I hope you can visit our city and company headquarters one day”. You would be surprised about how many of these books wind up displayed in the companies waiting room.

Speaking Invitation
Distributor executives and senior level buyers can share broad perspectives on industry observations sourced from a variety of suppliers. Most would be flattered by an invitation to speak at your company’s annual sales meeting or local industry conference. Suggested topics are the retailers own success story, trends and innovation or another area where the distributor or retailer has demonstrated a unique capability. Organizing and hosting the speaker normally requires significant interaction on speaking topic and logistics supplying further personalized contact opportunities.

Online Networking
Linked in counts more than 200 million participants and Facebook has more than one billion users.
These tools facilitate connectivity. I have been thrilled with invitations to connect via Linkedin with peers from my early career days. Now I can keep up with their progress and rekindle important relationships .
Road Trip
Admit it. When you go on vacation, you always check the local supermarkets. We are all students of the industry and enjoy visiting international retailers to view new formats and category trends. Why not bring  a buyer to visit an international market with you. ? You could invite the buyer or prospective new distributor  to visit a country where your brand looks impressive at retail. The same approach applies to an invitation to visit an international trade show to see innovation in a different country.

Handwritten Notes
Email, texts, and twitter have replaced the art of a  handwritten note. One of my mentors is now the CEO of a mid sized company. He ordered casual note cards to send out quick personal notes. Every week, he invests the time to send out multiple notes to the many people he meets. This ranges from a buyer at a regional retailer to a sales representative who sold a nice display. These notes come from the heart and often mean a great deal to the recipient. No surprise that this mentor is one of the best liked and most respected people in the industry.

Recognition Plaque’s
Everyone likes to receive an award. Distributors proudly display these plaques in their office lobbies as a statement  to their achievements. Buyers or Distributors can be presented plaques for reaching 100,000 dollars of purchases or 100 million units  of purchases …… you can always find a reason to celebrate!  The plaque’s normally cost $100 or less but can deliver significant intangible benefits.
Old Reliables
Golf still represents a great 5 hour bonding experience unless you are a lousy hacker like me. Dinner at a first class restaurant with your distributor and their spouse may be a treat. Birthday cards may be old fashioned but send an important message. Buy lunch for the retailers or distributors administrative staff. You’ll get the reputation as a person who appreciates the team behind the scenes.

You will be pleasantly surprised to discover that your buyers and distributors like to have fun as much as you do !